It was a steep drop. A long, long way down. Further than she had ever dared to try.
But she had nothing to lose by falling. All she would end up with were a few shattered bones and torn skin, and these didn’t even last. She healed, sooner than she would have liked. She wanted something that would leave its mark, just so she wouldn’t have to feel the constant ache from the ugly, jagged stumps on her back where her wings used to be.
The brackish waters crashed and foamed beneath her, unnecessarily dramatic. She lifted a foot. They were ungainly things, nothing like wings that bore her aloft in an intimate dance with the wind. She hardly ever shifted if she could help it. But now, with her wings ripped off, legs were all she had.
She tipped her head to the sky and raised her arms, ready to leap off the rocky edge of the cliff –
“Suicide, Megonea? How very melodramatic of you.”
She froze. The voice had the power to do that to her every time. She had weathered every element there was, but Finnesias continued to flay her to the bone.
“This is none of your business, Finne,” she called over her shoulder, but her arms fell back to her sides in defeat.
“On the contrary, I have a vested interest in your welfare. A soldier who deserts rank in the name of love might prove our most valuable asset.”
She whirled around and spat. “I am an asset to no one.”
“Oh, come now. Have some faith in yourself.”
He took a step closer. Megonea forced herself to remain where she was. She would retain what was left of her dignity in front of the pompous leader of the Rebellion. To think they used to train together when they were recruits; they could not be more different now. Finne with his lazy smile and cunning in his eyes (though he would rather use the word shrewdness), he never had and never would belong to the Empire Army.
“Why are you here, Finne.”
“Rescuing you from a terrible, terrible decision.”
“You are hardly qualified to save me.”
“Yet, here I am, succeeding in stalling for time.”
She turned back to face the sea. Part of her wanted to hide her ruined wings from his sight, but then she reminded herself that she no longer cared. This fate she had chosen for herself was far kinder than what lay in wait for her in the sky palace.
Suddenly, he was right behind her, his breath dangerously warm against her skin. His fingers brushed the left stump on her back. She flinched, felt the muscles in her neck tighten but also a tingle in her skin where his breath landed.
“Let’s make a deal,” he murmured. “If the Rebellion fails, I’ll jump with you. For now, we’re sticking together. Just like old times, eh?”
Megonea wasn’t sure what Finne meant by old times, because not once in their shared history had they ever stuck together. Before she could recall a time where they weren’t on opposite sides, Finne had given her a hard shove in the back.
He would, Megonea thought. Of course he would. She was a fool to have thought otherwise. With her dead, he had one less Empirion to deal with.
She was footloose, tumbling down with none of the grace she held when she was sparring. Air rushed past her with the ferocity of a Black Kite’s wings and a shriek ripped its way out of her.
It was a much further drop than she anticipated.